Joe Hart may not know where he will be playing next season, but the goalkeeper is under no illusions how quickly he could fall off the international map if he makes the wrong call.
Gareth Southgate left Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott out of this particular England squad, and Hart acknowledges that it could be him, or anybody else, next time.
The ease with which England, who face Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Sunday, have carried on without record goalscorer Rooney has proved to Hart that time waits for no man in football.
Asked what life has been like without Rooney this week, Hart, who will captain England on his 70th appearance, said: “You just meet up with the squad, whoever is fit and available. Wayne is a huge presence, but football has got this way of happening.
“You would probably ask the same question if I wasn’t in the squad, but if I wasn’t here I don’t think it would make much of a difference. We just keep going. These are the players for the one game against Lithuania now and we will try to win.”
England manager Southgate has made it abundantly clear that he will not pick his squads or teams on name alone, which makes Hart’s next move even more important.
The 29-year-old has nine games of his season-long loan at Torino left to run before he has to return to Manchester City and reconsider his club future.
“The decision I made to go out and play first-team football was needed,” said Hart. “I don’t think I would have played these (England) games had I stayed because I don’t think I would have had much game time (at Manchester City) and I think the standard of goalkeeping in England is really, really good - really, really strong.
“To try to make the first team for England goes hand in hand with me making first teams at club level and trying to perform at my highest level.”
Liverpool and West Ham United have already shown an interest in Hart, but he insists he has no pre-conceived ideas on the club he wants to join or even the country he wants to play in.
“I want to finish the season well, the best I can for Torino,” said Hart. “And I want to make the squads for the England internationals. Then, after that, something has got to give.
“I am not getting too wrapped up in that for the moment. I am lucky enough to have people working for me in terms of the business side of things. My job is solely to try to be the best I can and wherever I go for the start of next season, I want to be at the peak and coming off the back of a good season.
“I will obviously keep an eye on Manchester City – they are my parent club and one I have a lot of affection for, but my focus is England and Torino and whatever happens in the summer, whoever’s jersey I will be putting on next season, is where all my energy and all my passion will lie.
“I loved being part of Manchester City and while they wanted me there was nowhere else to look. But things have changed a little bit, I’m open and I want to be part of the best team I can be part of, that wants me to be their keeper and I want to earn the right to be their keeper.”
Pep Guardiola’s decision to cast aside Hart and initially put his faith in summer signing Claudio Bravo, who has been replaced by Hart’s old deputy Willy Caballero has been widely criticised.
But Hart remained diplomatic on City’s remaining goalkeepers, saying: “I have got a lot of respect for Willy – I worked hard with Willy when he won us the League Cup. I don’t know the keeper they have bought – I have never worked with him. I don’t know anything about him.”
Hart himself is no stranger to scrutiny, but insists he has learned to live with the highs and lows of club and international football.
“If I had ridden the waves of what people’s opinions were, I would be a wreck,” said Hart. “You are up, you are down. You are up, you are down. I have grown into the role.
“In the position I am in, goalkeeper, even at Sunday League level if you let your performance at the weekend dictate your whole week and your whole life, you are going to have problems. One day you are going to be far too overconfident and the next you are not going to want to make eye contact with anyone.
“I know how I play and my position in the games, and what I need to be doing. But I am human and sometimes it doesn’t go perfectly, but it is not through lack of effort. I just dust myself off and do my best for the rest of the game.”
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- Joe Hart
- Manchester City FC
- Gareth Southgate
- Willy Caballero
- Pep Guardiola
- England Football Team
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